Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama brushes off LBGTQ folks

The White House is having a reception to commemorate the Stonewall riots 40 years ago. Awesome, right? Totes! Except that they've done nothing to promote or publicize the event, and it's apparently a party? Is it appropriate to celebrate hate crimes when they haven't been extinguished?

From Shakesville:
Now, I'm about the last person who will ever be heard complaining that an event isn't formal enough, but, I've got say, it strikes me as just a wee bit (where wee bit = colossally) irreverent to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion with a "festive affair akin to" a St. Paddy's Day or Cinco de Mayo party, given that, y'know, hate crimes against queers aren't exactly what one would call a distant memory. Party down like you've got equality, bitchez!
I was one of those feminist folks who thought that Rick Warren wasn't an indication of things to come. I thought that Obama was trying to be inclusive and that Warren was throwing a pre-emptive bone to the right. But in his first six months, Obama has systematically ignored the concerns of LBGTQ* persons.

One of the most striking examples of this is his conferring of some benefits to partners of federal employees - not including health insurance. This isn't even the everything-but-the-language, separate-but-equal compromise of civil unions. By withholding highly sought and hard to find health insurance to partners of federal employees, Obama makes a strong statement about the place of QTGBL persons in his plan for America. How can their bodies and health be valued if this is his version of equal rights?

Renee Martin makes a good point about the intersectionality of the important issues Obama has addressed:

In less than six months, Barack Obama has not moved quickly enough to alter the hierarchal imbalance that exists in the US and minority groups seem intent on holding his feet to the fire. Their requests for Obama to keep his election promises are reasonable; however the time period in which they have asked is not. Unlike his predecessor, he has not knowingly lied to the populace, he simply has been focusing on matters that will most broadly benefit all of society...

...The GLBT community has faced and continues to face discrimination in employment. However, both of these marginalized groups have yet to publicly recognize the importance of ensuring that there are good paying jobs available. They want programs directly aimed at them, rather than focusing on achieving the greatest good for the largest number of people.

This is a valid point. Obama has only been in office a few months, and he has not had time to dismantle systems of inequality. However, he's flubbed a number of opportunities to make progress with relatively little extra effort. His choice of Rick Warren, his silence on unpopular policies like Don't Ask Don't Tell, the omission of health benefits to same-sex partners of US employees and the callousness of the Stonewall party reveal that he is going beyond just prioritizing crises.

Obama is giving lip service without any actual action. He doesn't need to fix all of these problems at once: one strong action would show that he is serious about BLGTQ rights. These rights have been attacked or ignored for about sixteen years, and Obama hasn't made a serious move towards repairing and building towards equality, despite the opportunities listed above.

While our president has made a number of steps in the right direction, he has also systematically ignored GBLTQ bodies and still expected their support. In the campaign, he promised the conservatives that there wouldn't be no gays getting married on his watch, and fierce advocacy to TLGBQ persons. Guess which promise he's kept?

What do you think? Will change come eventually? Or have GLBTQ folks waited long enough?

*I switch up the order of the initials in this acronym so that no specific group is consistently privileged.


  1. i honestly think he promised EVERYONE he'd make a change for them if/when he got elected.


  2. It's so hard to make a judgement on this one, as I am not American. The fact that there is actually any kind of commemoration at all seems to be a step in the right direction, but as you say, lip service is a cop out and demeans everyone involved. There needs to be some action following the nice words.

    Oh, and I know it's pedantic, but I loved that you switched around the acronym. As a bisexual girl, I felt irrationally happy seeing the 'B' at the start, for a change! Love you, RMJ. Love your blog.


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